By Anesu Chakanetsa
WHILE it has been a dark spell in Zimbabwe sport for the past five-or-so years, the Chevrons have come out of the dungeon blazing.
It has been a ping-pong affair in Zimbabwe cricket for the past two decades.
Last week, the Dave Houghton-coached side ploughed through so-called-minnows comprising Singapore, Jersey, US, Papua New Guinea and the much experienced Netherlands to qualify for the T-20 World Cup to be held in October in Australia.
Sikanda Raza and Craig Ervine were the heroes on the batting side while Regis Chakabva and Tawanda Chatara restricted visitors from collecting more runs through their splendid deliveries.
Zimbabwe will face the West Indies, Ireland and Scotland during the World Cup where the best two will qualify for the Super 12.
Zimbabwe will be hoping to make its mark after years of struggling caused by a plethora of reasons.
First, it was rancid sabotage by the West, particularly Britain, when Zimbabwe decided to reclaim its stolen land.
The majority of whites in Zimbabwe and Britain were not willing to comply with the changes of the time, that the land of Zimbabwe now belonged to Zimbabweans, not neo-colonialists.
Some whites complied with the tenets of the land reform and retained some of their land, while the hot-headed ones were not even willing to give up the land.
They then started pushing for regime change.
What followed was an itinerary that spelt out a massive sabotage system, especially in the economy.
The US, under George W. Bush and Britain under the then Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to impose illegal economy sanctions on the innocent nation of Zimbabwe.
Like a smart phone, the sanctions got updated now and again.
Cricket was not spared, it bore the brunt of land reform and sabotage by the West.
Some unpatriotic individuals, like Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, had to protest against the Government of the day, hiding behind the finger of ‘protection of human rights’.
More players abandoned the national team.
Internationally, Zimbabwe became an outcast in cricket and teams like England never set foot in Zimbabwe for many years.
This, however, brought opportunities for emerging black cricketers in the country.
Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Douglas Hondo, Stewart Matsikenyeri and Chamunorwa Chibhabha, among others, showed the world that Zimbabwe has talent.
Even the opposition now admits that the Land Reform Programme was necessary.
It empowered locals.
Internationally, Zimbabwe cricket went to an all-time low, failing in all the formats of the game.
The team was even banned for some time from playing test cricket.
The latest disappointment was when the Chevrons failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, after being painfully dismissed by the UAE at Harare Sports Club in 2018.
What a dark time it was for Zimbabwe cricket.
On July 19 2019, the International Cricket Council (ICC) suspended Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) because of ‘Government interference in their cricketing affairs’.
Funding to ZC was frozen, with ZC barred from taking part in any upcoming ICC events.
But that ruling was reversed after the Government of Zimbabwe was found to be clean.
Another scandal which implicated Zimbabwe cricket was when Brendan Taylor, a former Chevrons captain, admitted that he took bribes to manipulate matches and also breached anti-doping laws.
A series of individuals exchanged the captaincy of the Chevrons, including Heath Streak, former South Africa fast bowler Makhaya Ntini and Dave Whatmore, but nothing materialised.
But it was all a process of rebuilding a new cricket culture in Zimbabwe that appealed to everyone, even those in rural areas.
In Zimbabwe, cricket is not for the elite, but for everyone.
The recent Bulawayo victory has led to a five out of five winning streak, the first in T-20 cricket for the Chevrons, against the so-called minnows and associates.
Despite that, there is a bright future brewing for Zimbabwe cricket as the senior national men’s team is set to host India and Bangladesh from the end of this month, mid-August, and then fly for a tour to Australia at the end of August, before starting up preparations for the T-20 World Cup.
Zimbabwe cricket seems to be on a massive rebound after years of turmoil.
Meanwhile, the lady Chevrons are in Bangaluru, India, undergoing a massive training camp in preparation for their T-20 World Cup series to be held in the UAE in September.
However, for the Chevrons, a recent injury has become a thorn in the flesh for upcoming events.
The team has been dealt a major blow following an injury to star bowler Blessing Muzarabani ahead of their white ball series against Bangladesh starting at the end of the month.
Zimbabwe will host Bangladesh for three one-day internationals and as many T-20 matches at Harare Sports Club starting on July 30.
Muzarabani injured his quad in the T-20 World Cup qualifying tournament semi-final against Papua New Guinea last week.
He missed the final against the Netherlands, which Zimbabwe won by 37 runs to claim the trophy as well as a spot at the World Cup finals in Australia.
Fellow seamer Tendai Chatara is set to miss the home series against Bangladesh and India as well as the visit to Australia.
Zimbabwe’s tour of Australia 2022 is scheduled to begin on August 28 2022.